K-Lifestyle Wiki

Religion

Korea is a country where all the world’s major religions, Christianity, Buddhism, Confucianism and Islam, peacefully coexist with shamanism.
According to the 2015 statistics, 44% of the Korean population has a religion.
Among them Buddhism and Confucianism have been more influential than any others upon the life of the Korean people and over half of the country’s listed cultural heritages are related with the two religions. Buddhism arrived in Korea in 372, and since then, tens of thousands of temples have been built across the country.
Adopted as the state ideology of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), Confucianism was more of a code of ethical conduct that stressed the importance of loyalty, filial piety, and ancestor worship. Confucian followers also valued ancestral worship in the belief that the ancestral spirits can affect the life of their descendants, and tried to find auspicious sites for the graves of their ancestors. Today, however, more and more people are turning from the traditional practice of burial to cremation.
Catholicism was introduced to Korea from China through the envoys of late Joseon who visited Beijing and the Western priests who followed them.
The early Roman Catholics in Korea were subjected to severe persecution, but the religion continued to spread among the common people across the country. The persecution of Christian believers by Joseon’s rulers led Korea to yield the world’s fourth largest number of Christian saints.
Protestantism was brought to Korea during the late 19th century by North American missionaries, and quickly won people’s hearts through school education and medical services. Even today, Protestants in Korea operate a great number of educational institutions, middle and high schools, colleges and universities, and medical centers.
In Korea there is a rich array of native religions such as Cheondogyo, Won Buddhism and Daejonggyo which, although suffered various vicissitudes of modern Korean history, are still active in increasing the number of their adherents. Cheondogyo, formed on the basis of the Eastern Learning (Donghak) of the 19th century, maintains the doctrine that “Man is Heaven,” which exerted a strong influence upon the process of modernization in Korea.
Daejonggyo, established in the early 20th century to worship Dangun, the founder of the first Korean state, also affected the life of ordinary Korean people, boosting Korean nationalism. In 1955, there appeared the Islamic Society of Korea and the first Korean imam (Islamic leader), followed by the foundation of the Korean Muslim Federation in 1967. In addition to the major religions, shamanism has also played an important part in the daily life of the Korean people, trying to help them connect with the spiritual world and making predictions about their future.

Source: Korean Culture and Information Service 'Facts about Korea'

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Carl Ivan Setias
3 months ago

The “Pyongyang Revival” or “Korean Pentecost” in 1907 was a seminal religious movement for Korean Protestant Christianity. “Some of you go back to John Calvin, and some of you to John Wesley, but we can go back no further than 1907 when we first really knew the Lord Jesus Christ,” Korean Christians were recorded as telling missionaries in 1913.

Carl Ivan Setias
3 months ago

In traditional Korea, male missionaries were prohibited from conversing with Korean women and from gaining access to the anbang, a private room for women in a Korean home. Because of this taboo, the missionary wives initiated women’s ministry and Korean female evangelists, or “Bible women,” played an important role in the early spread of Protestantism. In fact, most of them were wives who had been neglected by their husbands in the patriarchal society of Korea. Nevertheless, they served as role models for modern women through their witness and Christian teaching, which included the principle of equality and the rights of women.

Carl Ivan Setias
3 months ago

When Southern Methodist missionaries arrived in 1896, they likened Yun to the man of Macedonia whom the apostle Paul saw in a dream saying “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” (Acts 16:9). Yun, like many future Christian leaders, regarded Christianity as a new energy for national revival.

Carl Ivan Setias
3 months ago

The first Western missionaries to enter Korea officially were Horace Grant Underwood and Henry Gerhard Appenzeller—both from the United States. Underwood, a Northern Presbyterian, and Appenzeller, a Northern Methodist, disembarked together from the same ship in 1885. Many of the first believers they baptized in Seoul were from Sorae.

Carl Ivan Setias
3 months ago

By the 1880s, the Confucian order was crumbling and Korean sovereignty was threatened not only by Western powers but also by the rise of Japan. Progressive Koreans sought to modernize the country and pressed for the entry of foreign missionaries to help with medicine and education. Some saw Christianity as the religious or ideological basis of Western society, believing the nation would benefit from a spiritual renewal of the people.

Carl Ivan Setias
3 months ago

The locals’ role in the beginning of Korea’s Protestant church in the 1880s closely resembled the early days of Catholicism. In addition to starting their own churches, Korean Protestants also lobbied for the entry of Western missionaries and supported their work. “The seed had been sown, and the field was ripe already, in a sense, and was waiting for the harvest,” wrote one foreign missionary who arrived in the late 19th century.

Carl Ivan Setias
3 months ago

The first Korean priest, Kim Dae-geon (Andrew), was ordained in 1845 after receiving religious training in other parts of Asia. However, shortly after re-entering Korea, Kim was discovered with incriminating Korean-language Christian texts and images. The authorities learned that he had been trying to help French priests enter the country from China and he was executed.

Carl Ivan Setias
3 months ago

Despite being started by aristocratic men, the first Korean Christians understood that the church was for all people. In a society stratified by ancestry and segregated by gender, early Christian communities included women and people of different ranks, and those from outcaste groups. Some aristocrats who converted to Catholicism or were sympathetic to the faith disguised their views, caring for exiled believers by allowing them to live on land they owned in more remote mountain areas or islands. Some of the exiled made their living as potters and itinerant tradespeople who spread the faith by disseminating Catholic literature and religious objects across the country.

Willy Liman
3 months ago

#Fact25 In fact, there are a substantial number of people who count themselves as Christians, but who also follow the traditions and practices of Confucianism, key among which are prayers and rituals to revere the family ancestors at certain times throughout the year. On the other hand, the number of Buddhists may actually be smaller than the statistics indicate because many clients of the shaman say they are Buddhists on government surveys because there is a stigma attached to believing in spirits in modern, high-tech Korea.

Willy Liman
3 months ago

#Fact24 Slightly more than 50 percent of South Korean's 49 million citizens profess some religious affiliation. That affiliation is spread among a great variety of traditions, including Buddhism (30 percent), Christianity (25 percent), Confucianism (0.2 percent), and shamanism. These numbers should be treated with some caution, however. Unlike Christianity, there are few if any meaningful distinctions between believers and nonbelievers in Confucianism, which is more of a set of ethical values than a religion.